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Marilla Town Board will consider local law to regulate sludge

With a moratorium prohibiting “sewer sludge” about to expire, the Marilla Town Board will host an eleventh-hour meeting at 7 p.m. Friday in Town Hall that could result in a local law to regulate the material.

At Tuesday’s work session, the town’s environmental attorney, John T. Kolaga, to explain why he believes the law should be passed.

Addressing Councilman Warren K. Handley’s concerns that the town could face litigation over the law, Kolaga said there’s no guarantee that the town wouldn’t be sued.

However, he said Marilla would prevail when two competing factors are considered: the state agriculture and markets law and the town’s right to home rule.

Kolaga explained that the town may pass a law that serves a legitimate and reasonable purpose such as protecting public health, adding that Marilla’s proposed law is based on scientific research and facts.

According to Kolaga, the state Department of Agriculture & Markets has not challenged similar laws passed by towns that do not want the material, which is used as a fertilizer. The sludge is a byproduct of converting waste into methane gas.

Before the board votes Friday, members want input from the town Planning Board, which meets Thursday at 6 p.m.

Handley said an earlier Planning Board opinion on the sludge law was made in March before the law was amended and presented to the public April 9. Representatives from the Department of Agriculture & Markets and the DEC will attend the meeting to offer their views on Marilla’s proposed law. Kolaga will also attend.

“There were concerns from farmers that the law would prevent them from installing agricultural digesters and they want that clarified,” Handley said.

If the board passes the law Friday, it would be a complete reversal from the April 9 meeting when residents vented their anger after the board failed to pass the law.

Supervisor Earl A. Gingerich said the moratorium prohibiting the storage and spreading of sludge remains in effect. It is scheduled to expire Friday, six months after it was filed with the State Comptroller’s Office.